The real answer is Mike. The eighties answer to this – (the one that everyone knew) was a drummer.
Everybody knew that drummers were on the way out in the eighties. Drum machines were the oft pointed at pieces of technology that were the beginning of the end.
A guitarist could program a drum machine with super accurate beats. A bassist could put in a bit of randomness to sound like a real drummer by not making the beat super accurate. And keyboardists probably did the most programming because it was so similar to what they do.
Twenty years later there were the White Stripes which only was a two piece. And one of those two instruments was a drum kit.
One of the biggest acts of today is Twenty-One Pilots. A two piece where one member is again a drummer. Sure the singer, who usually plays keyboards, also sometimes plays bass and the ukelele. That helps to expand the sound. But today it seems there is always that incessant need for live drumming.
Drumming didn’t go the way of the dodo. It has become a thriving part of modern music.
Some rap artists have been saying for years that all the sounds possible for a guitar have been done. With keyboard and DJ equipment you can get ever expanding sounds for your basic instrument.
It’s not unexpected to see modern bands without guitarists. Even older veterans like Coldplay and Imagine Dragons, though they have a dedicated guitarist, are more likely to produce synthesized sounds for up front.
The guitarist seems destined to disappear entirely from the music scene.
Technically a guitar is just cords that produce sounds. Much like vocal cords. Does this mean that one day rapping will be passe? Will singing be passe? The instrument keyboards were based on also used cords. Will keyboards become passe? Basses are bass guitars.
It’s more than possible to make guitar synthesizers. The guitar six string format with frets could just be another way to control music. Guitar synthesizers can be updated just as quickly as any synthesizer and DJ equipment in existence.
I think modern music just likes to poke at guitarists who were number one for so long. But I think it is a nervous poke because they must know that music can turn again on them and put another basic instrument on life support.
The basis of a guitar is a neat format for a chord enabled instrument (the keyboard is the other great format). It will rise again. Wind instruments and bowed string instruments need a section to produce chords. With some chords having 6 or more notes, this becomes an expensive option. Even without the synthesizer a lot can happen with guitars. Guitarists have never been adverse to electronic enhancement of their sounds. Drums never went completely away either.
So now is the time to out myself. I am one of those guitarists mentioned often these days as useless. But calling me useless isn’t going to get me to stop. My adolescence was in the eighties. If you want to insult me to the max, call me a drummer.